Sunday, September 9, 2012

Keeping up with Collison - WFAA


WFAA Sports

Posted on September 9, 2012 at 4:39 PM

Updated today at 5:27 PM

Since his days at UCLA, Darren Collison has been known as a speedy point guard with the ability to push the ball in transition. That has allowed his teams, the Hornets and the Pacers, to play at a higher pace when he is on the floor. In the NBA, pace factor is the number of possessions used by a team during the course of a 48-minute game. Dallas, during Rick Carlisle’s tenure, has averaged a pace of 91.7. This begs the question, how will Collison impact the pace of the Mavericks?

During his rookie season with New Orleans the Hornets had a pace of 93.8 when Collison was on court as opposed to 91.6 when he was on the bench. That team heavily emphasized point guard ball control and management, due to the presence of Chris Paul. Therefore, Collison was allowed to utilize his speed in controlling the tempo of the game. When he was traded to the Pacers, it took time for him to adjust to a new system. 

I contacted Tim Donahue of for some perspective on Collison. He notes that the Pacers, under Jim O’Brien, now an assistant coach with the Mavericks, employed a motion/passing offense which takes the ball out of the hands of the point guard much sooner than Collison was accustomed to during his time with the Hornets.

 O’Brien’s system called for the point guard to work his way through the offense, eventually coming back to the ball after several players handle it. Despite his struggles learning the new system, the Pacers had a pace of 95.9 with Collison on the floor and 93.2 with him off, the largest differential of his career.

The following season, the first full year with Frank Vogel as head coach, Indiana ran more pick-and-roll plays because of the addition of David West. This halfcourt-centric style of play slowed down the pace of play with the team averaging just 91.5 possessions with Collison on the court. Indiana set a pace of 90.2 with him sitting.

Collison's final season with the Pacers could mirror how he will be used in Dallas. The Mavericks run their offense through Dirk Nowitzki, much like the Pacers did with West, and so it can be assumed that in the halfcourt, Collison will be featured in plenty of pick-and-roll situations. Yet, as Ian Levy points out, he has never been all that adept in the pick-and-roll. The past two seasons he averaged 0.76 and 0.72 points per possession, finishing possessions as the ball handler in the pick-and-roll. He wasn’t much better passing out of those sets, as the Pacers’ screeners averaged 0.92 points per possession in pick-and-rolls both of the past two seasons, finishing 20th and 26th in the league.” Since he shoots a good percentage from midrange, PnR performance shouldn’t hurt his overall effectiveness. 

What will be interesting to see is whether coach Rick Carlisle will let Collison free wield and run the offense like he allowed Jason Kidd to do. For this to happen, as Donahue points out, he must assert himself on the court and in the locker room. This should directly correlate with how much the Mavericks run. Players like Elton Brand, Chris Kaman, and Nowitzki will make it difficult to push the transition offense, but there are a number of players on the roster who can run with Collison on the break. Lineups that feature O.J. Mayo, Rodrigue Beaubois, Jae Crowder, Dominique Jones (playing time will dictate both Crowder and Jones’ chances), Brandan Wright, and Shawn Marion all have the potential to run with Collison. To be successful, they must run in numbers rather than letting two players take off down the court.

While Collison has the ability to increase the pace of a team, he is most effective when the ball is in his hands and he is pushing the tempo. The Mavericks' current roster contains players that are suited for a faster style of play, but Rick Carlisle will have the final say as to how fast the team plays and how much of an impact Collison will actually have. With more teams opting to increase their pace, Erik Spoelstra said even the Heat will cave to changing times and play faster this season. it would behoove the Mavericks to keep up.
Doyle Rader writes about the NBA on the cleverly-named website 'The Kobe Beef.' You can follow him on Twitter at @thekobebeef.

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